Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tools of the Trade

What tools of the trade do you use?
I’m not talking about tools such as hammers and saws. I’m talking about pens, paper, and computers. How do you compose your work?

I have to write everything down in long hand first. I always have, I guess it’s become a habit that I can't seem to break.

I write down my article and go back and forth marking out words and sentences, and drawing lines where I want to restructure a sentence. I normally write on a legal pad. But I’ve been known to write an article on a napkin, paper bag, back of a receipt and even Post-It Notes - just whatever is handy.

When I first started in the newspaper business I wrote my articles out and then typed them before handing them in to my editor. He would edit them and then send them to the typesetter to be set for the paper.

When we changed over to computers, I still continued to write my articles out long hand first. I just seem to get a better feel for the story when I’m actually writing instead of typing. That’s not to say that when I’m typing the story I don’t make changes to it, I do.

The tools of the trade for me are a pen, paper and then a computer.

As I said, when it comes to paper I can write on almost anything. When it comes to my pen, now that’s a different story. I am in a constant search for the perfect pen. I haven’t found it yet, but I’ve found a number of good ones along the way.

For this reason, I’d have to say I collect ink pens. I am the world’s worst about buying more pens just about every time I go into a store and see something different. Sometimes it’s the color of the pen, or shape of the pen, or the design of the pen, or just the pen. I normally like fine point, but I have found some medium points that wrote very well.

And the funny part of it (or crazy part) is that with all the pens I have, half the time I can’t find one that works when I need it. Go figure.

Now for the computer. I don’t have a favorite, just as long as it works for me. I use Microsoft Works to do most of my typing because it works well with the program I have to use at work.

As an author (or inspiring author) what tools of the trade do you use? Do you have a special program that you use to give you a word count? Do you use flash drives to backup your stories?

Do you have a special pen you use to write your stories or maybe one you use when you sign books? Do you have a journal you write in or just any piece of paper will do?

One other thing today - it appears I can’t post about just one thing. I’ve signed up for a book challenge for 2010. Since there is only four weeks left of ReBooWee, I decided it wouldn't be that difficult to sign up for another challenge.

When I stopped by Deb Baker's blog POWERED by BOOKS BLOG yesterday. She was talking about the fact she had signed up for not one, but four book challenges for 2010. After looking over the challenges, I decided to give one a try.

I’ve signed up for The Thriller and Suspense Challenge at Book Chick City. The challenge is to read 12 books in this category, anything from cozy to hard-boiled to supernatural suspense by the end of the year. Included with the sign up is a list of all the sub-genres and their descriptions. I was number 117 to sign up yesterday, Jan. 4.

I thought there would be no problem with meeting this challenge, that’s one book a month. I’ve gotten into reading various other genres, but I should still be able to do at least one mystery/suspense book a month.

There were several other challenges on Deb’s site, but I don’t think I’m going to try any others ….. at least not this week. I’d like to know who makes up these neat buttons and badges for these challenges.

Have you signed up for any challenges? Have you ever thought about designing your own challenge?

Happy reading my friends.


  1. Oh I'm totally doing that challenge b/c it's not even a challenge for me, it's daily living! I will actually be able to say I completed a challenge! Is that cheating?

    As for tools of the trade...In TV news writing we have to write it straight into the computer. The one exception is in the field where I take a lot of notes and often have my script and video code written first. But things happen so fast in TV (or are expected to) that it must go from brain to air in a matter of minutes. No time for longhand.

    In novel-writing I am finding I enjoy longhand the most. I write best in longhand. Some of it is that I don't get distracted by the internet. Some of it is the connection between my brain and the paper is stronger than my brain and the keyboard. Who knows why? But this is an interesting questin you pose...

    The right pen? I have yet to find it either! Occasionally my husband will bring home a wonderfully flowing one from work and I will steal it. But he realizes sooner than later and steals it right back. Then I'm back ti Bics and insurance company giveaways. If you find a good one let me know! I don't like gel tips.

    See you at Book Chick City!

  2. I'd *rather* use a pen and a composition notebook. Unfortunately, I found that when I write longhand, it takes twice as long...because I have to transcribe it to Word later. Under deadline, I just don't have time to write, then type. So I've taught myself to do it all on the computer...writing, revising, the works. But I still prefer paper. :)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. In the beginning it took some adjusting to write directly to the computer but now I wouldn't go back. I have notes, bits of paper scattered everywhere and I love pens with really fine points. I used to do backups of all my work but now I use a gmail account and email everything there where it stays on the server.

    I'm so "thrilled" that you signed up for a challenge!

  4. Michele, I don't think taking the challenge is cheating. It just finding a goal we know we can reach and past at the same time. I don't like the gel pens much myself. We'll continue our search for the right pen.

    Elizabeth, It does take longer doing both. I have started out writing my story in longhand only to have to stop mid-way, type it in the computer and finish there. On a rare occasion I can type an entire article without doing any in longhand but it feels strange.

    Deb, I find that I use more fine point pens. They just make the writing look neater. I'm glad I found the challenges on your site. I'm still thinking about a couple others - the library and the first series. Not sure yet.

  5. I create on the computer. But the first edit I do is on hard copy because I see it differently on paper. After that it's mostly computer, although I do print some really stubborn chapters from time to time.

    It's either a mechanical pencil or Pilot Precise rolling ball pen - red. Nothing else works.

    But starting out, if I have pen or pencil and paper, all I do is doodle. My mind is blank.

    I love how all of us use different methods to write.

  6. Carol are you telling me that doodling is not work? It's hard to get all those circles perfect. :)

    I use a mechanical pencil for my day planner. I guess it because I'm constantly changing things. I got into using a red pen for a while. But when the ink ran out, the next one wasn't any good. It is fun to see all the different ways we write.

  7. Mason - Thanks for the thoughtful post! I have to admit - I do best with Microsoft Word. I love to be able to edit as I go, and save everything conveniently. Besides, my handwriting is atrocious! : ). The other tool I use heavily is the Internet. I use it for research when I write, and to connect with other writers - it's invaluable.

  8. Margot, there are some days I can't even read my own writing. I use to say if you could read car salesman's handwriting you could read anyone's. The internet has become a major 'tool of the trade.'

  9. I write my outlines by hand in notebooks, but the actual writing goes straight onto the computer. I type far faster than I write so it's less frustrating. My handwriting tends to become rather like chicken scratch as I race to keep up. Makes for rather hard work when I come to read it again!


  10. I love notebooks and pens but usually use my computer...faster that way. But I carry paper with me at all times, in case I get an idea. I can't rely on my memory.

    I haven't signed up for any challenges, because frankly I am a challenge all on my own.

  11. Elspeth, when I write sometimes I then to mark through and write above or below so that the words run together. I've come up with some pretty interesting words that way. Outlines are always helpful with anything you write.

    Teresa, I've started carrying a small pad with me because my memory is well ... you know. I love that you're "a challenge all on my own." Never thought of it that way.

  12. I can't even imagine writing things out long hand!! I tend to type pretty fast, so it would probably take me 4 times as long to do it by hand - and then I'd have to transcribe. I'd cry :)

  13. Jemi I wish I wrote directly onto the computer, it would save so much time. I guess old habits are just hard to break. But I keep trying to do more direct typing,

  14. Hi Mason!

    I'm afraid I do everything via computer. I'm too impatient for my hand to catch up with my brain when I write long hand.

    I'm in college right now and poor as dirt, but I hope to buy a new book (w/a good word processer) so I can write (and blog!) from school one of these days...

    As for challenges, I'm doing six this year. My faorite is the fill-in-the-gaps 100 project (read 100 books in five years.)

    All are detailed here:



  15. LOL. 'New book' in the above comment is supposed to say 'net book.' A typo! (The Blogger gremlin ate it.)

    A net book is a half-size lap top for half the money.

    Digital is the way to go. :)

  16. Corra, I'm still getting use to my lap top. I am so technically challenged. Speaking of challenges, I can't image doing six. The one you mention does sound interesting. I'll have to check it out. Thanks.

  17. As far as writing, I tend to read the book, and then wait a day or so. I like to let the thoughts gather in my head and sort themselves out. Then I just start typing. I do use a legal pad to take notes, or grab quotes when there is a good one.

    As for challenges, I haven't done any of those yet. The Mystery Challenge though intrigues me. I might have to check into that.

  18. Rick, sounds like you have a good system in place. Do check out the mystery challenge, I think you'll enjoy it.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.